Study Guide

The Reivers Virtue and Non-virtue

By William Faulkner

Virtue and Non-virtue

Virtue and Non-virtue are like the angel and devil sitting atop each of Lucius's shoulders. His good senses tell him one thing, but his bad side tells him another.

Yup, we've got a classic battle between good and evil on our hands, folks.

Lucius constantly finds himself caught between Virtue and Non-virtue. He feels that Non-virtue is calling most of the shots and goading him into making bad decisions. Non-virtue is way sexier than Virtue.

"If Non-virtue still wanted either of us," he claims, "it was now her move. Which she did" (3.50-51). When Lucius agrees to help Boon steal his grandfather's car, he allows himself to be tempted by Non-virtue. The call to adventure is just too great, and Non-virtue claims him.

So are Lucius's actions the result of forces beyond his control? Is he really being controlled by Non-virtue? Or is he wholly responsible for his choices? What do you make of the fact that during the adventure, whenever Lucius is tested, he actually acts in a pretty virtuous way?

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